Today and Tomorrow
Life in Munzur is a reflection of the seasons. In winter, the pulse slows, the energy ebbs, and a state of partial hibernation seems to settle over the valley. Not only does the livestock remain indoors while fields and pastures lay dormant beneath the snow – these days, some villages become virtual ghost towns, with frigid winds gusting along empty lanes between homes more vacant than inhabited. Even Ovacik and Tunceli, the busiest places in the valley, slip into mellow, muted moods.
During summer, however, Munzur bursts with vitality. Snow melts, grasses grow, and flowers bloom. Towns and villages alike surge with activity, filled with people working, playing, and reuniting, sometimes after months apart. Ovacik and Tunceli, in particular, are abuzz with buying and selling, eating and drinking, coming and going, and the happy noise of celebrations.
The picture above shows the streets of Ovacik thronged with people during the 2014 Munzur Culture and Nature Festival. Many - probably most - of the people you see don't live in Munzur year-round. Some belong to families that scattered around Turkey and Europe following the tragedies of 1937-38 and 1994; some are students who attend universities in Ankara, Istanbul, and other far-away cities; some left the region for greater career opportunities. But in summer, they return to Munzur, because it remains so important to them.
This young woman lives in Istanbul with her parents for most of the year. But her family always goes back to spend part of the summer on a hill overlooking the Munzur River, in the house of mud, rocks, and wood in which her grandmother lives all year. In this picture, she's dressed up for the wedding of a relative, who also lives elsewhere most months - but who has returned to the valley to get married, as many people who have roots there choose to do, for several reasons.
Couples that marry in Munzur can easily incorporate a visit to the springs at the river's source into their wedding festivities, blessing their union at their religion's holiest site.
They also feel free to have a traditional Kurdish Alevi wedding ceremony, if they want one, which may involve parading a fully-veiled bride around on a horse, as townspeople come out to watch, join in, and follow along.